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FDR scholars: Why was Henry Wallace dumped from the '44 ticket?

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DerekG Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-04 05:07 AM
Original message
FDR scholars: Why was Henry Wallace dumped from the '44 ticket?
I confess I have little admiration for Harry Truman: I find Gore Vidal's argument--that Truman is ultimately responsible for the destruction of our republic--very convincing. It was Truman who opened Pandora's Box in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was Truman who decided that we *not* demilitarize and revert back to a peacetime economy (Canada, anyone?), and it was Truman who created the CIA and gave us the National Security Act.

Which leads me to Henry A. Wallace. I find it curious that FDR's vice-president, true heir to the New Deal, fierce anti-fascist (google his assessment of fascism, sometime) and future critic of America's role in fomenting the Cold War was dumped from the ticket--especially at a time when FDR's declining health was quite noticeable.

Did the Democratic party bosses have a vested interest in our future empire--and its enticing fruits? Or am I reading too much into this? Was Wallace cast aside for something so innocuous as being "unelectable?"

Scholars, history buffs...chime in!
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Wapsie B Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-04 05:10 AM
Response to Original message
1. Interesting question.
I'd love to know the answer. Wallace sounds like and Iowan I could've supported for President unlike the other boob.
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DemocratSinceBirth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-04 05:17 AM
Response to Original message
2. Respectfully...
I'll choose Arthur Schlessinger Jr.'s interpetation of history over that of Gore Vidal:


http://www.cooperativeindividualism.org/schlesinger_wal...
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DemocratSinceBirth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-04 05:23 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. What A Fair Dispassionate Assessment
America can use more historians like Professor Schlessinger...
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Radical Activist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-12-04 11:38 PM
Response to Reply #3
25. Schlesinger had his own biases
You see them come out as soon as he calls Wallace naive, which is an odd judgment to make about such a major political figure of the time period. Vidal makes his agenda more obvious, but they both have an ideological ax to grind. I appreciate it when a historian or writer is open about their viewpoint because then I better know how to evaluate their writings.
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DemocratSinceBirth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-13-04 04:50 AM
Response to Reply #25
29. I Respect Vidal As A Polemicist Or Gadfly But Not As A Historian...
And Henry Wallace was naive to the Soviet threat...


Hell, he fell for the old Potemkin Village routine.....
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TaleWgnDg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-04 05:32 AM
Response to Reply #2
4. Indeed. Gore Vidal has an axe to grind and does so quite often
through his revisionist "history" writings. No historian is he.
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DemocratSinceBirth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-04 05:37 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. He's Not A Great Historian But He Is A Great Polemicist....
And since none of us were at the events described some argue that one man's interpretation of events is as good as another...


If that' the case serious historical scholarship is dead....
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gjb Donating Member (197 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-12-04 09:31 PM
Response to Reply #4
24. Yeah but it's the right axe. History is written by the ruling class.
Edited on Sun Dec-12-04 09:32 PM by gjb
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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-04 05:51 AM
Response to Original message
6. Believe it or not, FDR's election was no shoe in in 1944.
The matter is covered quite well in David McCullough's "Truman," which is a fine tribute to a great American spirit.

The Repukes had a powerful candidate in Thomas Dewey. (Dewey's strength against Roosevelt in this election made him an overwhelming favorite against Truman in 1948.)

Henry Wallace was seen as an airy intellectual with no practical sense or administrative ability. He could seldom be bothered making political connections. His main asset seems to have been Eleanor Roosevelt's affection for him. Otherwise he pissed off huge segments of the Democratic Party, which was not as liberal a party back then as you might think. (It was after all still the party of white Southern segregationists.)

Everybody knew that Roosevelt was going to die in office. He was already in the early phases of congestive heart failure in 1944. It was not so much that people liked - or even knew much - about Truman, it was more that he offended few people. He was well liked in the Senate and much respected for his work on the War Resources Committee. Although he was associated with the Pendergast machine, his personal integrity was never questioned and people who knew him understood that he was personally courageous, honest, and forthright. No one knows why Roosevelt chose Truman, but the choice seems to have been one of Roosevelt's best.

All this bullshit about the atomic bomb is nonsense. Truman knew nothing about the bomb when he took office, although as a Senator he did agree to an administration request to sink huge sums of money in to Manhattan Project without questioning for what the money was to be used. There was never any doubt on the minds of anyone involved about the decision to use the bomb, historical revisionism aside. Henry Stimson, Leslie Groves, George Marshall, and even many of the atomic scientists, including the long time leftist Robert Oppenheimer were determined that the bomb be dropped on a Japanese city. I have no doubt that even Henry Wallace would have used it. The nature of the debate on the use of this weapon in 1945 was very different than the nature of the debates that arise now, or even those that arose in 1963, when John Kennedy was prepared to obliterate life on earth between dalliances with Marilyn Monroe.

Harry Truman was a great US President and ought to be remembered mostly for the Marshall Plan, for a commitment to Civil Rights, for resisting the strong impetus to use nuclear weapons in Korea, and most importantly for maintaining the civilian rule of the military by firing the insubordinate and possibly insane Douglas MacArthur.

Reflecting on Harry Truman makes one realize exactly how far we have fallen, how pathetic, venal and cowardly the United States has become in the age of the Lilliputian thug George Bush.

If we really want to see subjects who will deserve the worst historical reprobation of any generation of Americans since the times of slavery, we ought to look in the mirror.

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DemocratSinceBirth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-04 05:56 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. Everything Up ToYour Last Statement Was Fine....
Edited on Sat Dec-11-04 05:57 AM by DemocratSinceBirth
"If we really want to see subjects who will deserve the worst historical reprobation of any generation of Americans since the times of slavery, we ought to look in the mirror."


Many of us worked diligently to defeat Team Bush*....
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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-04 05:58 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. Many people worked hard to defeat Hitler in 1932.
That doesn't change history's verdict on the 1930's generation of Germans.
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DemocratSinceBirth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-04 06:04 AM
Response to Reply #8
10. How About "Good Germans" Like Willie Brandt....
who refused to serve in Hitler's Army?


I don't believe in collective guilt or innocence....

That's tantamount to believing in original sin...


Maybe it's a small point that's merely semantic because your analysis of FDR, Truman, Wallace, the bomb, and the tenor of their times is spot on....


Also, history will show that Bush* was elected in two of the more hotly contested elections in American history....
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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-04 06:57 AM
Response to Reply #10
11. There are significant differences between "original sin" and the guilt
Edited on Sat Dec-11-04 06:59 AM by NNadir
of 1930's Germans.

Original sin is a concept that is extended to people at birth and is independent of their actions. If I were claiming that Germans born in 1983 rather than those born in 1913 were somehow guilty for Nazism, I would be claiming the existence of original sin. This is not what I am claiming. Personally I think that the German people of modern times have a better claim to being civilized than we Americans do.

I am claiming that all persons of German citizenship in the 1930's and early 1940's have a responsibility for what occurred, with the possible exception of those who were arrested, tortured in concentration camps and killed. Even Klaus von Stauffenburg, who attempted to assassinate Hitler in 1944 was wounded in the service of the German army. He fought for the Nazis both in France and in North Africa. Thus even von Stauffenburg, now regarded as a "hero" and a "good German" has culpability for smoothing the way for the German genocidal machinery.

Willy Brandt is a special case. The future German Chancellor fled Germany in 1933 and sought, and obtained, Norwegian citizenship in 1940. He did not personally witness what was going on in Germany in the Nazi years and has a far greater justification for making the dubious claim of postwar Germans that they "did not know."

Just for the record, WE DO KNOW, here and now, in the United States what is being done in our name. We know that we are killing people to steal their oil for instance. We discuss it here every day.



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murielm99 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-04 05:58 AM
Response to Reply #6
9. Bravo!
Your post deserves a standing ovation.
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Zynx Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-12-04 08:54 PM
Response to Reply #6
18. Your post is very accurate.
I agree with every historical reflection there.
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liberalpragmatist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-12-04 09:18 PM
Response to Reply #6
22. If the public knew how sick Roosevelt was, Dewey would've been elected
Roosevelt's condition was well-known to those in govt and in Washington, but much of the general public, while realizing that Roosevelt was tired and probably sick, never realized the full extent of his illness.

Many historians believe that press reported how sick Roosevelt was and had the public found out, they would have elected Dewey.
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tsuki Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-12-04 09:31 PM
Response to Reply #6
23. Also, I was given to understand it was his commission, senate
investigation into war profiteering by military arms manufacturers, poorly built and expensive bombers, aircraft esp, MacDonald Douglass if I am not mistaken.

No one really believed FDR was as ill as he was, but they wanted Truman in a do nothing post, like VP back then.

He sat in an office and did nothing, was told nothing.
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AP Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-13-04 12:36 AM
Response to Reply #6
27. My impression was that FDR wanted to get away from Harvard & elitism.
He picked Truman because he wanted Truman to be president and he was essentially saying that his own career was about making a world which allowed people like Truman to be president. He thought Truman was a good person and exactly the right symbol of what Democrats were all about.
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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-04 09:10 AM
Response to Original message
12. Yes, and yes.
Edited on Sat Dec-11-04 09:12 AM by bemildred
These scenarios are not mutually exclusive. He may have been distasteful
to the party for his un-militaristic attitudes, and he may have been
"unelectable". This seems to be a cleavage issue, each side thinks the
other is nuts.

My own observation is that the parties are much less worried about who
wins the presidency than about preventing the wrong sort of fellow from
getting the job, someone "unreliable", the tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee
hypothesis (named for Boss Tweed no doubt.) If you accept that idea,
as I have, it lends weight to the "unreliable" side of the question and
detracts from the "unelectable" side.

The word "unelectable" itself is nebulous in it's meaning, it is really
just some guys opinion, and said guy can have his own axe to grind. Like
the use of "democracy" in US foreign policy, is has a special meaning
which is not the dictionary one.
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JohnKleeb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-04 09:17 AM
Response to Original message
13. Ive read
that FDR wanted Wallace personally, there were three candidiates for the Vice Presidency that year, Wallace, Truman, and James Byrnes. Wallace was the most progressive of the bunch and the one FDR liked the most himself, Truman was a supporter of most of the New Deal, and Byrnes was part of the party's segeratoinist wing. The party leaders at the time knew FDR was not going to live through his 4th term so they chose Truman as a compromise.
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Blue Wally Donating Member (974 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-04 10:01 AM
Response to Reply #13
14. Another historian once said......
"Roosevelt was a politician who failed at being a reformer. Wallace was a reformer who failed at being a politician."

FDR was rapidly cooling towards Wallace and the Republicans had made quite oa comeback in the house and senate in the 1942 off-year which was scaring the party. FDR wanted Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. The only one FDR was really against was Speaker Sam Rayburn. FDR really didn't know that much about Truman.
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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-04 01:27 PM
Response to Reply #13
15. You have the general flavor, but the only "Party Leader" that actually
mattered in the decision was Roosevelt himself.

Roosevelt knew Byrnes and Wallace quite well, and, as he was a very, very tired and sick man, the fact that he knew these men - and their faults - may have worked against both candidates. The fact that Roosevelt hardly knew Harry Truman at all except by reputation may have well worked in Truman's favor.

Whatever Roosevelt's reasons were, and they will remain forever inscrutable, the choice still worked well for the country and the world. Wallace was a fine thinker maybe, and Byrnes a fine politician, but neither in my opinion could have managed so intractable a time with such balance, courage and foresight.

We forget it of course, but the conclusion of the Second World War certainly did not eliminate all of the world's most beastly leaders. In particular, at least until Beria and Khruschev strangled him in his bed in 1953, Stalin, a monster of almost incomprehensible proportions, survived the war fully intact. Wallace may have proved too diffident against that threat, and Byrnes may have proved too dangerously belligerent. It is difficult to imagine anyone doing quite so well as Bess's husband, the plain spoken failed farmer from Independence.

I rate Truman very highly. If we had just one third of that man in Washington now, we would be safe. As it is, we stand perched on the abyss.
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EVDebs Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-12-04 08:44 PM
Response to Original message
16. Some TV show said he either leaked info or inadvertently spied
Edited on Sun Dec-12-04 09:02 PM by EVDebs
for the Soviets. A convenient ruse for those who preferred fascism if not true; if true, an embarassment that FDR had to deal with. Anyone know what show that was ? History channel, Discovery channel ? I'll keep googling along for verifications.

Consider the source, but maybe it was just a case of Wallace having too much of a big mouth during wartime:

From http://www.hempworld.com/hemp-cyberfarm_com/htms/conspi...

"The wiretap evidence against Dulles originally was collected by a special section of Operation Safehaven, the U.S. Treasury Department's effort to trace the movement of stolen Nazi booty towards the end of the war. Roosevelt and Treasury Secretary Henry Morganthau had set up Dulles by giving him the one assignment - intelligence chief in Switzerland - where he would be most tempted to aid his German clients with their money laundering."

Roosevelt had one thing in mind: "The sudden release of the Safehaven intercepts would force a public outcry to bring treason charges against those British and American businessmen who aided the enemy in time of war." Among the targets were Allen Dulles, Henry Ford, and other U.S. industrialists. (5)

The plan failed, however, due to Dulles being "tipped off . . . that he was under surveillance" in time to cover his tracks. One possible source of the leak was Vice President Henry Wallace, "who constantly shared information with his brother-in-law, the Swiss minister in Washington during the war."

"Wallace," the authors reveal, "gave many details of his secret meetings with Roosevelt to the Swiss diplomat." The problem was that, at the time, the Nazis "had recruited the head of the Swiss secret service."

It is, perhaps, no coincidence that Roosevelt dropped Wallace during the 1944 election, choosing instead Senator Harry S. Truman as his new running mate."

...Looks like Inadvertently passing along information that the enemy could have obtained, ....or Dulles set the poor S.O.B. up !

Also, from a book review on Amazon.com of "The New Dealers' War: FDR and the War Within World War II"
by Thomas Fleming

"...On the subject of FDR's health, even the FDR worshippers will tell you that the Democrat party bosses insisted on Truman because they knew FDR was dying, and were afraid of being stuck with Henry Wallace as their 1948 nominee. The pro-FDR crowd make this deception of the American electorate proof of FDR's brillance. Fleming merely says that the people had a right to know, and that perhaps FDR was starting to believe his own press clippings when he thought that the country would not survive without his election."




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Zynx Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-12-04 08:50 PM
Response to Original message
17. Don't look upon Henry Wallace favorably.
Edited on Sun Dec-12-04 08:52 PM by Zynx
Wallace was a downright Communist appeaser. I'm sorry, but Communism did need to be confronted, particularly in the case of Stalin. Wallace thought we could deal with Stalin. Now, of course we made many mistakes in "fighting" Communism such as Vietnam and our removing of democratic governments in Latin America in favor of dictatorships, but at the end of the day, Communism was destructive and needed to be contained. Truman understood this.

Now, as to why Wallace was dumped, everyone was scared to death of the idea that Roosevelt would die and then Wallace would be president. The Democratic big-whigs knew that Roosevelt didn't have long to live and they wanted a semi-palatable alternative. Truman fit that bill and then some.
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EVDebs Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-12-04 09:05 PM
Response to Reply #17
19. Truman was also a Freemason, as was FDR for what it's worth
or maybe just dumb luck as with TR being McKinley's VP.
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Julien Sorel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-12-04 09:06 PM
Response to Original message
20. I'm hardly an FDR scholar.
But Wallace was disliked by the southern Dems because he was pro civil-rights. FDR was concerned about a defection of some of those people (as actually happened with Strom Thrumond's 1948 campaign), and dumped Wallace in favor of Truman. If I recall, there were some pretty devious maneuvers by FDR, when he told both Byrnes and Wallace they would be his pick at one point.

The guy above hit the nail on the head: read McCullough's biography of Truman. It's a little too flattering of Truman IMO, but it's informative and well written, and a great read overall. You will likely come out of it liking and appreciating Truman a lot more, and you'll certainly come out of it with a much deeper knowledge of a key period in our nation's history.
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liberalpragmatist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-12-04 09:16 PM
Response to Original message
21. A President Wallace May Have Destroyed the Democratic Party
I admire Wallace greatly, but he was very naive when it came to the Soviet threat. TO be honest, a Wallace renomination in '44 wouldn't have killed FDR b/c Wallace was actually quite popular outside Washington.

However, while Wallace was laudably progressive on domestic issues, he was woefully naive on foreign policy. He himself later acknowledged that he had been duped by the Soviets. He trusted Stalin and believed that the Communists shared American goals.

Moreover, some of his closest foreign policy aides turned out to have been VERY close to the Soviets, including some who later turned out to be Soviet informers.

A Wallace Presidency in 1945, as much as I admire his intellect, would have been a disaster for the country. Greece and Turkey would likely have fallen to the Communists, Berlin may have fallen, and paradoxically, the world may have grown more dangerous. In the great book (check it out) What If? Part 2, a historian (can't remember who) who speculated on a "President Wallace," said that Wallace was no fool, and for every action, there would have been an equal and opposite reaction. Having seen Stalin's true intentions, Wallace would probably have been even more beligerrant towards the Soviets.

However, even if Wallace confronted the Soviets head-on, he may well have been impeached. McCarthyism and the Red Scare would have been even greater and when it was discovered that some of the top State Dept. aides (possible, his Secretary of State), Wallace would probably have been impeached. Certainly, had he run in '48, he either wouldn't have been renominated or he would have been crushed. The Democrats may have repudiated Wallace and nominated James Byrnes. The Democratic Party may well have been destroyed.
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Radical Activist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-12-04 11:57 PM
Response to Original message
26. He was getting too liberal
FDR was from a very wealthy elite family. He wanted to help the working man. He wanted to save the country and capitalism. But he did NOT want a true working class revolutionary government. Wallace took the rhetoric of the New Deal too far. The business leaders of the day (Roosevelt's friends and supporters) were getting nervous about Wallace so he had to be dropped. The purpose of the New Deal was to save capitalism, not sweep in socialism and that is what Wallace may have done. He was dropped for the same reason Huey Long had to be stopped.

The reason we never had socialism in America is not that the people didn't want it. It's because the government at all levels went to great measures to prevent it from happening.
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DemocratSinceBirth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-13-04 04:52 AM
Response to Reply #26
30. Maybe We Never Had Socialism
is because of the myth of rugged invidualism or Amercan Exceptionalism....


RFK had it right... All most folks want is a "job and some hope."
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Blue Wally Donating Member (974 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-13-04 05:24 AM
Response to Reply #26
31. The unions were against socialism as well
Most of the US labor leaders realized that captialism was the goose that laid the golden egg and that it was better to just ramp up their economic demands rather than destroy captialism. There were very, very few US labor unions with a socialist bent (despite the rantings of industrialists on the subject).

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T Town Jake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-13-04 01:08 AM
Response to Original message
28. Harry Truman told a story...
Edited on Mon Dec-13-04 01:10 AM by T Town Jake
...about one of his predecessors that is pertinent here. When Calvin Coolidge was president some book came out tearing down the reputation of George Washington. Asked about this, Coolidge reportedly looked out the window and said "his Monument's still there, isn't it?"
And that's precisely the way I feel whenever I run across some horseshit post tearing down one of the greatest Democratic Presidents of the 20th century: Harry S. Truman. His accomplishments speak for themselves, despite the hobgoblins of little minds that try to run him down from time to time.

On edit: adverb replacement.
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